Iwi adopt co-op structure

Iwi adopt co-op structure

Co-operative (ngātahi, paheko) is a concept to which Māori can relate, and this Hawkes Bay iwi has successfully embraced the sustainable business model since its Waitangi Treaty settlement eight years ago.

The Ngāti Pāhauwera Development Trust was created after the iwi and the government signed a landmark $100m treaty settlement in December 2010.

Headquartered in the Hawkes Bay township of Wairoa, the tribal trust has invested in several enterprises that have breathed life back into the land and enhanced economic prosperity for its 7,000 plus members.

Ngāti Pāhauwera Commercial Development Ltd manages the commercial assets of the Ngāti Pāhauwera Development Trust, including 15,484 hectares of pine forest (leased to Pan Pac) and 3,500 ha of farm land. Its purpose is to generate an increasing income stream to support agreed social and community objectives, and buy businesses that provide employment and a strong economic future.

From broccoli fields with multi-million-dollar coastal views toward Cape Kidnappers to paddocks with Friesian bull calves, the iwi that was wrongly alienated from its lands is now building an exciting future. As with all iwi across NZ there is a strong connection to the land (whenua), the ocean and rivers (Pacific Ocean and Mohaka River in this case) and the mountains/maunga (Tāwhirirangi in the Wairoa district).

The Ngāti Pāhauwera confederation of hapū (sub-tribes) descend from ancestors who maintained long occupation (noho tūturu/ahi-kā-roa) and established rights to the land and exclusivity that have formed the basis of the recent treaty settlement.

Wairoa District has a population of around 7,000 of which more than 60% are Māori. The lands are fertile while a favourable climate adds to the agricultural potential of the region.

Cooperative Business NZ CEO Craig Presland was hosted by Kuki Green, a founder of Ngāti Pāhauwera and leader within the Wairoa District along with 15 others from the local community.

Following a presentation on Cooperative Business NZ, the co-op sector locally and globally, and the co-op business model itself, discussions focused on starting new co-ops in the district. These ranged from agri-producer (vegetables) to pest management (culling of possums) and businesses involved in software development and producing creative content.

In terms of the latter, the establishment of a new local business with the working title of the Creative Content Co-op – involving the possible merger of 3 or 4 existing businesses into a worker-owned co-op of up to 10 staff – held greatest interest on the day.

Globally, many ICT and software development co-ops are now staff owned while this UK-based short video is testament to this.

There was a strong level of capability and experience in the room and, after a brainstorming session, the following direction was set:

  1. Story-telling, and in particular past Māori settlement in the region, NZ wars, locals who fought in WWI and WW2, Māori Battalion etc.
  2. Connecting people, including those who have left the district for overseas and who may want to return one day.
  3. Creating emotional connections and feelings for the region and its potential.

This group of people is now contemplating its next move in establishing this local co-op, which will be quite separate to Ngati Pahauwera, while Cooperative Business NZ will be in full support!